Catching the Big One
Father and Son Team Up to Topple a Tennis Dynasty
by Adam Watts
Photography by Friesen Photography
Legend has it that Lake Ida near Vergas, Minnesota is home to a giant northern pike named Walter. The elusive fish causes many a headache for anglers on the lake. Two such anglers are father and son duo, Vic and David Youngs.
The Youngs have been trying to catch the legendary fish for most of 18-year-old high school senior David’s life. The pursuit of the uncatchable fish has caused so many problems for them that anytime something goes wrong they blame Walter.
“We joke that when we have a northern snap our line, it’s always Walter,” David said.
Vic says there is nobody who loves fishing more than David. He could spend 24 straight hours in a boat. And he says that even as a kid, David’s fishing talent was undeniable.
“He had an absolute knack for catching fish,” Vic said. “I’ve got a video of David that I’m sure we’ll bust out for his graduation, and honestly he puts his line out and: boom, fish. And again: boom, fish. Just constant. He had the touch.”
Even with his “touch,” David and his father have not caught the legendary Walter of Lake Ida. They did, however, finally catch an uncatchable fish last fall — not in a boat, but on a tennis court.
The Fargo South Bruins boys tennis team, featuring David’s playing and Vic’s coaching, won the 2015 North Dakota State High School tennis championship, toppling the 17-year Grand Forks Red River dynasty. Before last fall, Red River had won 17-consecutive state championships and had not lost a match in 15 years.
“The state championship is — my gosh,” Vic Youngs said. “Red River is an unbelievable program, but we knew we had a chance. It’s pretty exciting. The Red River kids are great kids, but anybody who wasn’t wearing red and white was cheering for Fargo South. It was great to see that much support for the kids.”
This is not the first state championship Vic Youngs has won since taking over as head tennis coach for Fargo South in 1988, but he says it was the most special.
“This was the third state title that I’ve been a part of here at South and they’re all awesome,” Vic said. “But — my gosh — to have your oldest on the team and everybody came up big. It’s a pretty magical year.”
The magic didn’t start at the state championship, though. Fargo South ended Red River’s undefeated streak in the regular season on a night that David and Vic called “crazy,” and “funky.”
With two matches to go and the Bruins trailing 4-3, the contest moved from Fargo South’s home courts to Island Park in Fargo. South’s courts don’t have lights, so Vic Youngs along with Red River head coach Greg LaDouceur decided they would need to move to a court with lights in order to continue. Davis Lawley and Carter Steffes won the final two matches to seal the victory.
“I will be able to remember that last point for the rest of my life,” David said. “It was surreal. Even though we had won, we knew that we poked the bear. They wanted to get us back, and they did in the EDC championship, they beat us there 3-2.”
As well as sharing the team accomplishments of ending Grand Forks Red River’s undefeated streak and winning the state championship, the Youngs won a pair of individual awards in 2015. Vic Youngs won the North Dakota Tennis Coach of the Year and David won the North Dakota Senior Athlete of the Year.
“Winning senior athlete of the year was such a nice honor,” David said. “I’ve got to give it to my teammates. They helped me get better. They encouraged me. Even though tennis is an individual sport, it’s a team sport in high school. Even if you win your match, it doesn’t matter, you have to get five wins.”
About his dad, David says,“It was really good to see him win coach of the year because I think he is definitely one of the best coaches in the state. He has actually been nominated for national coach of the year a couple of times. It was especially rewarding my senior year to go out and see him win that award.”
Accomplishing what Vic and David Youngs were able to accomplish this year takes a lot of time and effort. They even take the tennis talk to the dinner table where the rest of the family hears about their strategies and possible lineups. Sometimes they have to try to remember that there are other people there too, Vic says.
“We talk about tennis quite a bit off the court,” David said.
“The rest of the family gets a little tired of it,” Vic said.
Though tennis talk dominates dinner table discussion in the Youngs household, David prides himself on being a well-rounded individual. He is the student council president and participates in Knowledge Bowl, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and band, where he plays trombone. He earned a trombone scholarship to his father’s alma mater Concordia College in Moorhead, where he will also play tennis.
“I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from my parents,” David said. “Try everything. If it sounds interesting, try it. I think being well rounded has given me a lot of opportunities and it has helped me make a lot of friends both in sports and music and student council. It’s great to be well rounded.”
“My wife and I enjoy watching him play in band and jazz band every bit as much as competing in sports,” said Vic who played violin at Concordia.
David is following in his father’s footsteps by playing tennis and music at Concordia and he may be following in his father’s footsteps by coaching at Fargo South next year. Vic says he may bring David on as a volunteer assistant coach in the fall. David is looking forward to helping the Bruins try to defend their state championship and to see the game through the eyes of a coach.
“I’m excited to see tennis from a different perspective,” David said. “I’ve grown up with it. I remember back before I played, I remember going up to watch a state tournament. High school tennis has always been a really big part of my life. I want it to stay that way, even though I’m not playing.”
It looks like Vic, David, and the Bruins tennis team will be getting back in the boat to chase down more uncatchable fish.